By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
What do you do if your cellphone rings while at a business dinner?
The answer should be simple, but that’s not always the case in today’s working world, in which local employers increasingly are pointing to a lack of so-called “soft” skills as contributing to a gap that they, educators and workforce-development leaders say is plaguing the Rhode Island job market.
“The answer to that is it should never ring because it should be turned off,” said Robbin Beauchamp, director of the career center at Roger Williams University. “Dining etiquette isn’t [all] about the food.”
Roger Williams, like several other higher educational institutions in the state, including Salve Regina University and Providence College, has through its career center organized a dining-etiquette program for students meant to focus on developing and practicing conversational and professional skills that are part of what most agree are the soft – or nontechnical – skill set.
The fact that these abilities are desired by employers is evident in numerous surveys and reports.
In an August 2012 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management to validate previous employer surveys in Rhode Island, according to the R.I. Governor’s Workforce Board, 52 percent of 50 responding firms said their job candidates need work-readiness skills and 28 percent said there was a need for communication skills.
In its 2013 Job Outlook Survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that in ranking candidates’ skills and qualities, technical knowledge came in seventh, while the ability to verbally communicate was first, followed by the ability to work in a team structure, to make decisions and solve problems, and to plan, organize and prioritize work.
The Graduate Management Admission Council, a nonprofit organization of graduate management schools, reported in its 2012 Corporate Recruiters Survey that among qualities recruiters look for in graduate job applicants are leadership (51 percent), goal orientation (46 percent), motivation (36 percent), professionalism (36 percent), and innovation (35 percent).